2014 is the International Year of Family Farming. Andrew MacMillan reflects on home-grown food.
A couple of months ago, the United Nations launched the International Year of Family Farming. Hopefully, by the end of the year many more people around the world will come to appreciate the enormously important role that family-run farms play in producing our food in sustainable ways.
When I was turning my compost heaps a few days ago to speed up the processes of decay and have lots of organic fertilizer available for the spring-time planting of vegetables, it struck me how often we risk creating confusion with the difficult words scientists and economists use to describe the kinds of things that small-scale farmers do, let us say naturally, every day.
Continue reading Investing sweat equity to harness ecosystem services
Why add nutrients to food all the time? Why not add them to the soil itself asks Esin Mete.
As global leaders come together to discuss a new set of development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals, that expire in 2015, the role of food security and nutrition is key in underpinning the development agenda’s future success.
It has been well documented that growth in the agricultural sector can have dramatic impacts in reducing poverty – in fact, at least twice the potential (see p. 6) of growth from any other sector on average, according to the World Bank.
Continue reading Fortifying fertilizers can fortify food
Individuals, governments and farmers are all responsible for the changes we need, says Oliver Dowding.
My first 13 years of farming saw endless lorry-loads of fertilisers and chemicals coming on to the farm. The controls on their usage, and the consequential problems, were evidently increasing. I re-examined what I was doing and who the gainers and losers were.
Conclusion: I needed to cut down the inputs, improve sustainability, stay friends with the consumer and re-enliven my soils.
Continue reading Business as usual is not an option
Nitrous oxide’s contribution to climate change is no laughing matter, says Keith Goulding.
Carbon dioxide is the most commonly recognised enemy in terms of its contribution to greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, and certainly the biggest culprit in terms of volume, but there are other gases, closely tied with food production, that are also major targets for reduction.
Farming is responsible for about 8% of the UK’s GHG emissions (up to about 19% when the road to consumption is included) but about 40% of its methane emissions, which mainly come from livestock, and 76% of its nitrous oxide emissions, which are mainly due to fertiliser use.
Continue reading Tackling agriculture’s greenhouse-gas emissions
Through our understanding of how plants secure their own nutritional requirements, we can provide new solutions for sustainable food production for the world’s growing population.
Plants must secure high levels of nitrogen, and in conventional agriculture nitrogen is added at high concentrations in the form of inorganic fertilisers. Artificial nitrogenous fertilisers can increase yield by as much as 50% and the global farming system, and hence our own food supply, is now dependent on them. We would face very severe food shortages if nitrogen fertilisers were to become unavailable.
Continue reading Getting to the root of food security